Keyword density is a foundational aspect of on-page SEO. When used correctly, it can help attract search engines and boost a page’s visibility on search engine results pages (SERPs). When ignored, it can keep a page from ranking or even result in a search penalty, removing it from SERPs altogether.
This post will explain what keyword density is and how to use it correctly. That way you can reap the benefits of fully optimized content and avoid the pitfalls associated with this SEO best practice.
What Is Keyword Density?
Keyword density is an element of keyword optimization that refers to the number of times a target keyword is used on a webpage. It is a percentage that represents how frequently the target keyword appears relative to the number of words on the page. Keyword density is one signal search engines can use to determine whether or not a piece of content is relevant to a particular keyword or phrase.
Keyword density is an element of keyword optimization that refers to the number of times a target keyword is used on a webpage.
How Is Keyword Density Calculated?
Learning how to calculate keyword density is fairly easy. You simply take the number of times the target keyword appears on a page and divide it by the total number of words on the page.
Number of times the target keyword appears / Number of words on a webpage
= Keyword density
Here’s a keyword density example:
The site huddle.com published a webpage about project management. The page targets the keyword project management, uses the keyword 20 times, and has a total of 1,000 words.
20 (Number of times “project management” appears on the page) / 1,000 (Number of words on the webpage) = 2% (Keyword density)
What Is the Ideal Keyword Density?
Unfortunately, there is no set rule for how many times a keyword should appear on a page. Search engines do not publicize a target keyword density percentage, so you must use discretion and best practices to guide you.
Most SEO experts believe that an ideal keyword density is around 1-2%. This means the target keyword appears about one to two times per 100 words. At this rate, the keyword appears enough times to show search engines what the page is about without engaging in keyword stuffing.
What Is Keyword Stuffing?
Keyword stuffing is the act of repeating the same target keyword over and over to rank the page for the target term. At one time, this was a popular black hat SEO tactic. While it is not widely used in this way today, marketers should be aware of keyword stuffing so that they don’t accidentally engage in it.
A page may appear to use keyword stuffing if its keyword density percentage is very high. You want to avoid this because keyword stuffing goes against Google’s quality guidelines, and it can lead to search engine penalties that remove the page from SERPs.
An excessively high keyword density can also create a poor experience for readers. It can affect the clarity and readability of your SEO content, causing visitors to bounce in favor of higher quality pages.
4 Strategies for Good Keyword Density
Because there is no clear, ideal keyword density described by search engines, you should stick to best practices for keyword optimization rather than abide by an exact keyword density percentage.
The best way to approach keyword density in your content is by using the following strategies.
1. Write for readers first – then focus on keyword use
Remember that the best content is created for readers first. Write naturally, and organically use the keyword in your copy. Create content that is high-quality, compelling, and valuable, using these content writing tips as a guide. Once you’re done writing, go back and see if you can naturally add the keyword to reach a keyword density of around 1-2%.
Related reading: SEO Copywriting for Google and Humans
2. Use keyword stemming to add variations of the target keyword
Keyword stemming refers to a search engine’s ability to recognize and associate similar word forms connected to the target keyword. Usually, keyword stemming adds a prefix, suffix, or pluralization to a target keyword. For example, stemmings for the keyword project manager could be project managers or project managing. Because search engines recognize and associate these words, use them in your content to support your target keyword while adding textual variety to your copy.
3. Use semantic keywords to give context and support the target keyword
Semantic keywords are terms that are synonyms, variations, or contextually related to the target keyword. They are related not because of what the words are, but because of what they mean. For example, semantic keywords for the target term project manager might include project management or managing projects. Search engines use semantic SEO to understand and rank webpages, so find related keywords and use them in your copy to support your on-page SEO.
Related reading: Semantic Search: What it is and How it Impacts Your SEO
4. Avoid keyword stuffing
Once you complete your content, use an on-page SEO checklist to check your keyword density and other on-page SEO factors before you publish. Make sure you used the target keyword enough times to tell search engines what the page is about without engaging in keyword stuffing and putting your site at risk for search penalties.
Related reading: 3 SEO Problems You’re Probably Not Monitoring
How to Check Keyword Density
You can manually check keyword density by counting your keyword usage and the total number of words and using the formula above. Or you can use a tool like the Yoast SEO Plugin to check keyword density within your WordPress post editing page.
Once your page is live, you can perform one final check on your page by using Alexa’s On-Page SEO Checker to review keyword usage and make sure the page is fully optimized for the target term.
Find and Use Keywords the Right Way
Now that you understand keyword density and know how many times to use keywords in your content, get tools that help you identify the best terms to target in your posts and pages.
Sign up for a free trial of Alexa’s Advanced Plan to get keyword research tools that help you find the best terms for your content. You’ll also get access to comprehensive reports that identify technical and on-page optimization opportunities you may have missed.